It’s officially that time of the week: NFL Power Rankings. The (5-6) Carolina Panthers dropped their sixth contest of the season on Sunday when they lost 27-21 to the Washington Football Team. Cam Newton looked decent in his first game since the preseason, and remained a bright spot for the team on an otherwise disappointing day. The loss marked the fourth consecutive home defeat for Carolina this season.
National media responded by dropping the Panthers down by an average of two spots. Aggregating several rankings, the Panthers come out to an average of No. 21 (last week: No. 19) in the 32-team NFL.
Let’s check out what outlets around the league are saying about the Panthers after Week 9:
NFL.com: No. 24 (was 19)
Cam Newton played well in his return to Bank of America Stadium, but it was his former backup who stole the show. Taylor Heinicke lit up the Carolina defense for three touchdown passes and the Panthers’ offense sputtered for much of the second half in a 27-21 loss, Carolina’s fourth consecutive setback at home. Newton ran for a touchdown and threw for two scores, but Carolina’s defense was unable to make key stops on a pair of Washington field-goal drives in the final five minutes. The Panthers will look to get back to .500 with a Week 12 matchup against the surging Dolphins.
NBC Sports: No. 22 (was 20)
Cam Newton wants people to trust him, but time is running out and losing to Taylor Heinicke only accelerated the Panthers’ clock.
CBS Sports: No. 21 (was 15)
Cam Newton brought some energy, but he didn’t bring a victory. Losing to Washington is a bad loss for this group.
ESPN: No. 19 (was 17)
Most memorable Thanksgiving game: Panthers stay undefeated with 33-14 win over Cowboys on Nov. 26, 2015
In their first and only Thanksgiving Day game, the Panthers made the most of it by returning two of Tony Romo’s three interceptions for touchdowns and improved their record to 11-0. They also knocked Romo out of the game with a collarbone injury that already had forced him to miss seven games. Cam Newton, en route to the NFL MVP, didn’t do much in this one outside of 12 rushes for 45 yards and a touchdown. It was the defense led by Luke Kuechly that carried the day. As Newton said, the defense brought its “A-game.’’ — David Newton
ESPN Football Power Index: No. 22 (-1.0) (was 20)
Sporting News: No. 22 (was 18)
The Panthers got more of a spark from Cam Newton but their offense is still mostly powered by Christian McCaffrey. They’re looking better on that side, but unfortunately for them, the defense keeps letting down for Matt Rhule.
Pro Football Network: No. 20 (was 22)
I’m not sure what the Panthers will be with Cam Newton moving forward, but I certainly didn’t expect this defense to struggle with Washington as much as they did. They have a young, fast unit that flies around. Yet today, they allowed conversion after conversion on third down.
There is a lot of talk about head coach Matt Rhule struggling or Joe Brady not calling the offense well enough. I even saw some negative tweets about defensive coordinator Phil Snow throughout the day. Stop!
The Panthers aren’t so talented on either side of the ball that we should expect them to compete for playoff contention. It wouldn’t surprise me because I thought they were close even with Sam Darnold — but it’s not a given.
Yahoo! Sports: No. 22 (was 20)
Cam Newton played well in his first game back in Charlotte, and the Panthers still lost. If the Panthers want to be a playoff team, you can’t lose games like Washington at home. There’s plenty of time to make up for that but the Panthers can’t keep dropping winnable games.
New York Post: No. 23 (was 18)
Sports Illustrated No. 18 (was 20)
Their simplified passing game in Cam Newton’s first start (understandable, considering he’d been there for 10 days) was an issue against a Washington defense that’s been busting coverages regularly; maybe it was just a bad matchup. But the Panthers have the defense, and now the offensive identity, to be a playoff team, and a home loss to an inferior opponent is a red flag.
DraftKings: No. 12 (was 10)
DraftKings has moved from subjective assessments to using spread differential. Point differential is a helpful tool for figuring out the best and worst teams. However, point spread can offer a little more context to how good or bad teams might be. The top of the rankings includes most of the really good teams and the bottom includes most of the really bad teams.
Czikk’s view: No. 19 (was 18)
Well folks, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that, much to my pleasant surprise, Cam Newton showed that he’s still capable of producing. There is something to say about Cam’s confident vibe, especially when he celebrates a big play. There’s no way the offense doesn’t feed off that, and that’s something that seemed totally devoid when Sam Darnold was under center. Ideally Newton’s play improves as he grows more comfortable in Joe Brady’s system.
The bad news is that sometimes the Panthers just don’t play very well as a team, despite having a the NFL’s second-ranked defense. It can’t always entirely be blamed on the offense, such as we saw on Sunday afternoon. The defense did not play up to its standards, which was unexpected. It’s an unpredictable team to cover and I can imagine it must be frustrating to be a Panthers fan at the moment.